As every year springs eternal for teams with a 0-0 record, so, too, it is the fertile soil for dreams yet unmet and the rekindling of fires that once burned bright.
The Astros have a few of those hidden gems on their roster this season, lurking in the wings and hoping to get a shot — or another shot — at a spot on the opening day roster.
Whether they turn into actual diamonds are not remains to be seen, but here are some who could fit the bill.
Alex White. 25. RHP.
- Lest you forget, the former #1 pick made the starting rotation out of spring training last year, then went down with a season-ending elbow injury. He had Tommy John surgery last April 11, so may not be ready to break camp with the team. When he’s healthy, though, the 25-year-old should be a strong candidate to join the rotation at some point.
Peter Moylan. 34. RHP.
- A non-roster invitee with an unusual side-arm motion who throws in the mid 90s. He’s had some dominating games and, when you look closer, he has some interesting possibilities. He made 14 appearances with the Dodgers in ’13 and had great results in all but two of those outings. Sure, gotta fix those road bumps, but in 38 appearances at AAA, finished with a 2.74 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and allowed just one HR. Yes, it’s AAA, but worth watching this spring.
Kevin Chapman. 26. LHP.
- Sure, he pitched in 25 games for the Astros last year, but it’s easy to get lost in a sea of pitchers. He came over from Kansas City in the Jason Bourgeois–Humberto Quintero trade (2012). As the musical chairs plays out this spring, he’ll need to significantly cut down his BB/9 to find a seat, but other indicators are strong.
Brent Strom. Pitching Coach.
- The Astros’ new pitching coach needs to develop into a gem. Just sayin’. This could be the most important off-season acquisition as he takes over the incubator for one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. Can’t have any foul-ups along the way with arms like Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, Jarred Cosart, Lance McCullers and other showing up on the radar soon.
Max Stassi. 22. C.
- He’s only 22 and doesn’t show up on Baseball America‘s radar, but could be worth watching this spring. As I’ve suggested before, he could set a chain reaction into motion with a good spring, perhaps forcing the Astros to reconsider whether Jason Castro moves to first base or DH. While he projects to be above average defensively, he did make the jump from AA last year, which also means he may need more seasoning. Keep an eye on.
While there are many other young prospects in the system who could be gems, these are a handful of those that outsiders or even lukewarm Astros’ followers might notice at first glance.